Biedermeier – the much quoted and oft discussed word of our age: have idyllic, middle-class mores taken hold within our society? What, in fact, is Biedermeier? Does the contemplation of this era mean looking back on Better Times? This special exhibition in the Upper Belvedere tells of the period of the Metternich restoration, the empowerment of the middle class and its simultaneous retreat from the sphere of political responsibility into the private sphere.

The Habsburg Monarchy in the first half of the nineteenth century: the French Revolution and Napoleon have shaken it to its foundations – it endeavors to regain its old strength by means of repression. Meanwhile, the middle class is attaining a new, hitherto unknown self-awareness. The focus is on the family, the proverbial sort of domestic happiness. At the same time, its protagonists withdraw from political life.

This was the starting point for a new style: the Viennese Biedermeier. The ostensible idyll of the private was turned into the prevailing ideal. Depictions of domestic life increasingly found their way into art. Salon culture was booming. Family portraits, glimpses into tranquil domesticity, and floral pictures became popular in the visual arts during this time. The local landscape as a point of identification also became a fashionable motif.

Nevertheless, art was not entirely uncritical during this period: representations of supposedly contemplative or touching scenes reveal the complete opposite upon closer inspection. Poverty and social exclusion are the “hidden” themes in Biedermeier painting.

With this exhibition, curator Rolf H. Johannsen addresses the fact and fiction behind an influential epoch for Vienna and the history of its art.

With works by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Friedrich von Amerling, Rosalia Amon, Josef Danhauser, Thomas Ender, Peter Fendi, Pauline Koudelka-Schmerling, Carl Schindler, Franz Steinfeld, Adalbert Stifter, and others.

Curated by Rolf H. Johannsen.

 © Foto: Belvedere Museum